Best Thai Restaurant - 2012
Pearl Cafe isn't dangerous because it dares diners to complete its "King of Spice" challenge: a series of four dishes, ranked from "Level 25" to "Level 100," each spiked with an increasingly more potent blend of hot chiles (including the fearsomely scorching ghost pepper). The challenge is strictly voluntary. No, Pearl Cafe is dangerous because even if you stick to its standard spice scale, from mild 1 to actually-this-is-pretty-damn-hot 5, you can be lulled into believing that not only can you tackle the challenge, but you must. Blame owner and executive chef Scott Truong. His dishes, from the straightforward red and green curries to the feisty "Drunken Noodles" to sophisticated seafood fare, are so stocked with fresh, vibrant flavors that the euphoria they induce and the euphoria sparked by even a brief hit of capsaicin heat can seem one and the same. Maybe order a beer from the restaurant's impressive list of bottled craft brews before you make the commitment. As Truong's brother, Tommy, who leads the front-of-house staff, will tell you: Once you go up in spice level, you can't come back down.